The Darkness That Embraces Indian Horror Films

A week from today the sequel to Ragini MMS will be upon us, overhyped because of Sunny Leone in the lead role, the presence of item numbers and the former porn star gyrating to those songs. I’m not sure which is worse, but she looks very hot and one of the songs is catchy. A surefire way to get anybody who watches Hindi movies to jog their memory is to ask them which the last Bollywood horror film that scared them shitless was.

Those who have some understanding of quality in cinema will cite Ramgopal Varma’s Raat as the scariest one, and then they’ll go silent. Raat is brilliant, of course, but not the only horror classic Hindi cinema can brag about. My heart lies buried do gaz zameen ke neeche with the Ramsay Brothers and goes out to you if their films weren’t a part of your growing experience. I won’t even start naming those spook-fests (I already named one, for your information), but even their titles emphatically show their love for horror. Hell, even Zee Horror Show was bone-chilling; you can scare people of all ages in broad daylight just by humming that otherworldly tune.

sunny leone ragini mms 2 baby dollThe last many years of Bollywood horror have been embarrassingly funny because of directors employing half-hearted measures to make scary movies. RGV has himself turned into a joke of sorts, and his own affinity for the genre has not translated into anything eerie. The best thing old boy Ramu did for the style in recent years was getting Milind Gadagkar to not just write but also direct Phoonk 2. I was perhaps the only film critic the movie got a positive review from and you can read it here. Then there’s Vikram Bhatt, another filmmaker who loves horror but always manages to screw it up. Vikram Bhatt suffers from the need to either justify everything or solve the unearthly problems with the help of… wait for it – God. In one of his movies, the ghost kills a Catholic priest but flees when the protagonist chants the Hanuman Chalisa. In another of his films, the demonic force suffers a setback when the hero hides in a dargah. In yet another attempt of his, one that released around Ganesh Chaturthi/ Ganpati Visarjan, the ghost gets killed by a bleeding man who has drawn power from a mangalmurti to kick ass like a leading man. The use of religious angles isn’t a problem (certainly not when crosses are inverted; they look best that way), but you can tell Vikram Bhatt has been doing it on purpose to excite a certain section of people at that time, and that’s no fun.

aniruddh agarwal saamriThe Ramsay Brothers’ offerings, deliberately exaggerated as they were, with the bad songs and poor acting, were wholly enjoyable. The Ramsays were masters of their craft great at what they did because they had embraced the genre and were madly in love with it. They wanted to scare the hell out of you and were successful every time, and what’s amazing is their movies terrified everyone who watched them. My guess is that it always worked because those filmmakers weren’t nursing a latent desire to make a wildly commercial film and focused only on petrifying us all.

Sadly, the latest Ramsay horror releases today (You didn’t know that, right? It’s called Neighbours) and is relegated to seedy theatres, while Sunny Leone’s film will open across multiplexes next Friday. Ragini MMS 2 is destined to be a hit. Manufactured in every way that can be thought of to appeal to audiences that don’t even want to be scared and can be pleased with anything that keeps them entertained for two hours, it makes one think of the tapori crowd that attends metal gigs nowadays. Having no idea what Brutal Death Metal/Goregrind is, they’ll still hop to some slam band because it allows them to stop thinking and simply have fun. Not that that’s wrong, but to somebody who does understand the music, it is very absurd. “Samajh mein nahi aata lekin mazaa aata hai na, buntai!”

Haan, bhamai, haan. The future of everything is scary.

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